Red Masquers trounces 24-hour playwriting challenge

Nicholas Zotos | Social Media/Ads Manager | The Red Masquers put on another set of successful one-act productions.

Nicholas Zotos | Social Media/Ads Manager

Jan. 12, 2023

Lights, camera, action! On Saturday, Jan. 7, the Red Masquers performed a series of one-act plays that were full of comedy and intrigue.

The Red Masquers, the oldest amateur theater company in Pittsburgh, is a student performing arts organization within Duquesne. Last weekend, the organization hosted its annual Play in a Day series where students are given 24 hours to write, create a soundtrack for, choreograph and even memorize short performances based on a random prop and setting given to each writer at the start of the 24-hour period.

“This is a tradition we have within the organization. The performers were given their assignments at 8 p.m. on Friday, and their plays began the next day. Having the students compose an entire act is extremely difficult,” said Susan Betten, the vice president of the Red Masquers and producer of Play in a Day.

Despite the time constraint, the performers rose to the challenge. Each act was about 20 minutes in length, and the students spent most of the day extensively preparing for their acts with memorization and staging.

“I wanted to do Play in a Day last semester. This was so fun. I enjoy performing and having fun while doing improv” said Ethan Nafus, a junior psychology major.

What made Play in a Day especially unique from other productions put on by the theater group was not just the time constraint, but also the prompts assigned to each student writer.

“On Friday, each director pulled out two words from a hat and paired them together,” explained Morgan Sandzimier, the assistant stage manager. “Each group received two unique words to base their acts on.

“The play is difficult. However, it is a cool way to get involved without being a theater major.”

By pairing random words, students had to think outside the box to create their one-act plays. For example, graduate media student Travis Barkefelt’s “Richard and Harry’s Regular, Uneventful Hiking Trip” play featured a scooter (the random prop) and a mountain (the random setting). These themes do not readily pair, but writers used their talents to create unique comedy based on their random words.

On Saturday at 8 p.m., 24 hours from the beginning of Play in a Day, the Red Masquers’ writers, directors and actors were ready to perform their one-act plays.

The show lasted for approximately 45 minutes and over 30 people were in attendance.

“This is my 5th time [directing], and I think this went really well,” said Red Masquer alumna Jillian Lesaca, director of the one-act “A Nice Testament.”

“The actors have been working really hard to learn their lines. As always, the show went great.”

Peter Scarpino, senior history major, played Peter in the one-act “The Final Show.” He reflected on his experience after the 24 hours was up.

“I am very tired. I had to wake up early. But this was worth it. This is my first time acting, and I really enjoyed the experience. I hope others become involved in the future,” he said.

The Red Masquers have additional upcoming events. The next production this semester will be Mud, a three person show with themes of toxic relationships and underprivileged communities. “It opens Jan. 25, so make sure to attend,” Betten said.

Students are encouraged to join the Red Masquers. The organization is open to all undergraduates who are enjoy and appreciate theater arts. Interested students can learn more at their website, or by emailing to join. The Red Masquers are also present and active on Instagram at @duqredmasquers for those looking to keep up with the latest news from the theater group.

*Correction: The original version of this story, which ran in print and online on Jan. 12, contained multiple errors. The errors have been corrected and are reflected in this version.*